On Wednesday evening, the Portland Development Commission provided a prime example of why citizens distrust and even dislike governmental bureaucrats.

After months of public input supporting Beam Development--and even after PDC's own evaluation committee recommended Beam--PDC's five-member executive board went ahead and awarded the Burnside Bridgehead contract to someone else. The announcement was met with gasps and boos.

Over the past few months, Beam had become the crowd favorite, recommending stores geared for the "creative class" and rejecting big-box stores. (Originally, competing firm Opus Northwest planned to place a Lowe's there.) Yet in spite of public opinion and recommendations, PDC awarded the $200-plus million project to Opus Northwest, a massive, Minnesota-based corporation.

PDC Chairman Matt Hennessee rationalized the decision, saying that they had weighed "developer capacity" heavily. He pointed to Opus' extensive history as a prime reason for choosing the firm over the fledgling Beam, which developed the Eastbank Commerce Center. Opus has designed office parks and corporate headquarters from Florida to Arizona.

But PDC's reasoning that they chose the most experienced developer rings strangely. Bruce Wood, the local representative for Opus, has declared that he will break off from Opus and head up the Burnside Bridgehead project under a new firm.

PDC also said that their rejection of Beam was largely based on the fact that Beam submitted a proposal requiring more public subsidy--an estimated $10 million compared to Opus' $6 million.

But what Hennessee did not explain is that Beam provided greater square footage. Also, during the review period, there were few objections raised about the public subsidy. It seemed to be a non-issue to most involved--in the past, Portland residents have consistently shown themselves dedicated to funding civic projects. Over the past few years, voters have approved self-imposed taxes and levies to fund parks, schools, and children's programs.

PDC spokespeople were unable to answer how often the PDC executive board has rejected recommendations from their own evaluation committee.

The project is scheduled to begin its design and construction phase this October, with completion scheduled for 2008.